A new report finally lets us take a look inside Valve
Valve is a notoriously opaque company, but it still has a firm grip on the PC gaming market. Its marketplace, Steam, is synonymous with PC gaming. Other competitors like GOG and the Epic Game Store have popped up, but nothing compares to the Steam monolith. People Make Games conducted a six-month investigation into the company to see what it might uncover, and it appears that despite the apparent lack of managers, co-founder Gabe Newell’s absolutist ideology of free speech is reportedly the reason that almost all games come out on the market can platform.
The YouTube channel that broke the news of all the scandals surrounding Roblox’s child exploitation two years ago released a raunchy 47-minute video earlier today. Former and current Valve employees were interviewed on condition of anonymity and shed much light on the opaque company.
One of the important issues raised in the video is whether Steam has a responsibility to players due to its market dominance. While many games are legal, they can still spread harmful stereotypes and hateful views while being sold on Steam. A former Valve employee said, “One of Gabe’s arguments was that these games get more buzz when we say no to them than when we say yes and nobody buys them.”
It’s an argument that almost makes sense until you realize that it’s a convenient way for Valve to never have to take a position on anything. The ex-employee continued: “But I didn’t really like that very much. I think it’s appropriate for companies to take a moral and ethical stand, but management didn’t agree with that.”
Another said that while the decision wasn’t unilaterally made by Gabe Newell, “basically, it’s his libertarian political beliefs that direct the flow of the company in a way that a number of employees disagreed with.”
The end result was an announcement on the Steam Store stating, “We’ve decided that the approach is to allow everything on the Steam Store except for things we deem illegal or pure trolling.” This is ambiguous enough that Valve can choose what it does without ever really having to take a stand.
The video discusses how this came to a head after the murder of George Floyd, when Valve, rather than making a public statement, gave each employee $10,000 to spend on whatever charitable cause they chose.
Other highlights of the video include an employee saying he believes only 10,000 people in the world have what it takes to work at Valve. However, it is unlikely that many of them will be anything other than white males due to reports of diversity issues within the privately held company. It’s nothing new in the tech industry, but it’s still disappointing.
One interviewee said, “People at Valve are very insecure” because they are ranked by their peers and firing practices are very opaque. However, for those who come in and stay, the salary is high and the annual bonuses can sometimes match the annual salary.
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